Neomis looked out the window on the world swirling below. He loved the view they had from the station spinning around Kieaa. How many times since he had been had he seen the sun rise and set? Hundreds, an effect afforded only because of their unique place in the atmosphere.
It had been two days since they had disengaged the space elevator, a precaution taken in case the world below had a catastrophic event from a passing asteroid, but that fear had been misplaced, and the asteroid it seemed would strike, but in the depths of the ocean, washing the shores in the water, floods, tsunamis. Their new little family of apes would be safe, as they were so far inland. They disengaged the elevator because they could not risk any damage to the this, the station. However, now it was disengaged, without the Mothership, they would not be able to re-engage the elevator. They were going to be forced to use the small shuttle to take them from the station to the surface, and to take the last of the apes, now encoded with genetic modifications so as to evolve more fully into the same species as Neomis and his people.
He pulled his gaze away from the world below and looked at his communication station. Still no word from Gugulaania, the silence had Neomis worried, of course Galela reminded Neomis that if Mothership had started the final journey to the south pole, communication could be spotty or cut off entirely. They still received the locator beacon feedback from Mothership, so whatever had happened to their family, it had not yet terminated all communications on the surface.
Neomis had been raised on Gugulaania, it had been the only home he had ever known. He knew that this father, Neomin, also had been raised there, but when Neomin was a child, Mothership and her power reserves were strong. By the time Neomis was old enough to be aware, he and his people were confined to the inner colony, near the equator of Gugulaania. The out laying colonies were being abandoned, and transportation to those habitats eliminated. The Mothership continued to provide everything they needed, shelter, air to breathe, warmth, everything. But for those of their people located around the solar system, it was a different story. Many explorers were working on stations around the great gas planets, the largest of which, the fifth planet out from the center star, had provided a wealth of learning and discovery. There was a small icy moon that had some of the earliest signs of life and the scientists in orbit there had reported that perhaps they could colonize that small system in a space station. Those explorers died hoping that someday they would be rescued, that their research could be used to recover the decline in Mothership. This hope slipped away and they waited for a rescue that never came. No doubt by now their ship, being unattended and not powered, had slipped into the atmosphere of the gas giant.
All this, the exploration, the space stations, occurred before the actual decline of the Mothership was well known. Once it was discovered Mothership’s power supply was expiring, and it was learned that they could not support stations on other planetary bodies besides Kieaa and Gugulaania, those explorers were abandoned. Most of them had anticipated Mothership would retrieve them, and likely that had been the original plan from her A.I. program, but it seems a flaw in the programming was that Mothership failed to communicate her demise to her children. Once they discovered Mothership’s cascading power failures, and in communicating with her, they found she had known of this catastrophic event nearly two centuries earlier.
Neomis sighed, his hand resting on the computer console. Each device on the station was interconnected, powered by the same source as Mothership herself. The power, a fusion technology that they had not been able to replicate, because they hadn’t needed to in centuries, could almost be felt, humming around them. Neomis and most scientists knew that technology was a combination of biomechanical and quantum mechanical integration of energy packets and fields. The use of gravity waves to manipulate matter, both its form and function, was the heart of the technology. A heart that only Mothership knew how to care for. The hundreds of centuries his people had spent in space, traveling to this solar system, then the hundreds of years settling on Gugulaania, well no one thought to learn the inner workings of Mothership. Likely no one could have. As the technology advanced, thousands of years ago, the science and calculations needed to use and comprehend Mothership was no longer something his people had the capacity to do. Only Mothership and her computers had the computing power to know herself and her own workings; this removal from needing to know or work with Mothership’s computers resulted in freeing his people to become writers, artists, philosophers, lovers. They explored more the meaning of life from their libraries and lectures. They did not need to build, grow, construct. Those things were all done for them.
He moved his hand away from the computer and looked over his shoulder at the lab door leading to his little family of apes. Most of the apes had been brought back to the surface, this last group of 50 of the original 200 individuals who had been genetically modified, imprinted with the key genetic codes of his own people. Neomis smiled. This was a last desperate act of species preservation. One hundred years prior when the idea had been suggested, and finally approved by Mothership as viable, they had set on working with the apes. Neomis’ own grandfather had lead the first group to Kieaa, and they had found the apes that they wished to work with, the ones who were the closest match to their people’s genetic codes. It was most fortunate that this solar systems origins of life were shared in common with his own people’s some billions of years prior. The earliest microbes which evolved into life must originated in the same region of space as their home world, many solar systems apart, because genetically speaking they shared an ancient common ancestor. He smiled at the thought of the apes. The wonder of it all, here they were millions of light years apart from his people’s home world, and sitting in the room next to him were his cousins, not so different than he. Perhaps if he and Mothership hadn’t intervened these apes might have eventually evolved into a species perhaps not so different than his own. Now though, they had accelerated that process, and what would have taken perhaps many tens of millions of years, would now take only a few million. The original plan of course had been to even further accelerate the evolutionary process, that plan was the one being initiated by Neomis’ grandfather, but once Mothership had revealed that she would fail, nearly completely, before that could to pass, they simply wanted to accelerate the process as much as possible. They knew that they would not live to see these apes evolve much, but in terms of the age of the universe, it would a relatively short amount of time indeed.
Neomis stood, he lifted his arms above his head and stretched. He felt the fibers in his body pull and tighten. He was delaying what he had to do next, which was prep himself and the apes for the journey back to the surface. The effects of the asteroid strike had been much less severe than anticipated and the flooding and damage to the surface was minimal. They had more time than the surface of Gugulaania, Mothership had divested greater power reserves to them than the surface of Gugulaania. He frowned at that thought, the inevitability of the loss of life, the loss of his parents, friends, his people was overwhelming. Sighing he walked over to the lab door and entered the sequence for entry. The room had to be under pressurized for him; the thick duplicative Kieaa atmosphere, so heavy with nitrogen and oxygen was nearly impossible for him to breath. While he could breath in it for a few minutes, he would rather not. His own lungs were designed by Mothership to better breath on the nearly non-existent atmosphere of Gugulaania, which was mostly composed of carbon dioxide. Though his people in their home world had evolved hundreds of thousands of years ago to breath a nitrogen/oxygen mix, not unlike that of Kieaa, his people arriving in this solar system knew they had to modify their genetics, their bodies to adapt to Gugulaania. Once it was clear several hundred years ago that they would never be able to settle on Kieaa, and that Gugulaania would be their home, Mothership began the process in working with the geneticists and biologists to adapt their lungs and bodies. Gugulaania did not have a sustainable atmosphere, but with the modifications and with Mothership’s ability to create oxygen from the Gugulaania atmosphere. This essential technology was another mystery to most of the scientists, knowledge lost to complacency. He reached into a small wall compartment and slipped on a breathing apparatus. The door to the lap slipped open and the lights came alive.
Simbia was already at the door to her habitat, a smile on her lips. She cooed at him, making hooting noises to him indicating her pleasure at seeing him, and no doubt expecting food. He smiled at her, “Ah dear Simbia, I know, I know.” He unlatched the door and she jumped out at him. The artificial gravity was much less here than on Kieaa, and so her powerful muscles launched her at him. He grunted as she hit him, though she was quite large, Neomis still had greater mass than she. He swung her around his body in a spinning motion, much like one would spin a child in a circle. He laughed as she held onto him. “I missed you too!” He allowed her to nuzzle his neck. He looked at the other apes, now all attentive and watching closely. While they all had some sort of bond, Neomis was especially close to Simbia. He had known her only for a few years, she was a young ape, and her mother, Sulki, had been a very good mother. Sadly though she had disappeared some time ago on the surface, taken no doubt by a predator, which had left Simbia an orphan, and thus Neomis had adopted her. She was one of the first apes he had modified, using his own codes in her genetic sequence. The modified sequences focused on higher cognitive functions, speech and bipedal walking. Other more subtle modifications would affect the apes’ development of self awareness, conceptualization of time and abstract thinking.
“Come Simbia,” he pulled off him and lowered her to floor so she could walk. “Go, release Membia.” Membia was a young male, a close friend to Simbia and a very gentle ape. He would in normal circumstances, if left to develop on the world unmodified, likely have been the lowest order of ape in the group, maybe even an out cast. As it was here though, he was showered with affection from Neomis and Simbia, his status raised amongst the other apes. Simbia darted to Membia’s habitat, his bright eyes were shining through the glass front, glittering in the lab’s bright lights. He hooted at her as she opened the door. He was more cautious than she, and he didn’t immediately leap down to the floor. Instead he looked to Neomis, his hand extended out to him, palm up.
Neomis smiled and walked over to Membia, he brushed the palm of Membia’s hand, “Yes young man, you may come out.” Membia carefully lowered himself to the floor, immediately Simbia was hugging him and they rolled onto the floor together, excitedly hooting. The other apes joined in the ruckus, and for a moment Neomis thought he would go deaf. He clapped his hands sharply once, and immediately the apes grew silent. “Simbia, Membia come with me.” The two apes joined their hands and followed Neomis to the far door of the lab, using their free hands to support themselves as the lumbered along just behind Neomis. Neomis opened the door and immediately felt the dissipation of the gravity, a relief for him, he looked over his shoulder at the two apes following him. They had paused at the door entry. The artificial gravity here was much closer to the levels found on Gugulaania, but the apes had done just fine walking in the lighter gravity previously. Neomis smiled, he knew they were curious and that the promise of some fruit would entice them. “Darlings,” he said to them, “come and I’ll give you a treat.”
That was all it took and the two apes jumped into the hall following Neomis. He smiled at them, the brushed past his legs, running towards the end of the corridor It wasn’t a long hallway, but it lead to the main station hanger, where the spacecraft rested that would be used to transport them all back to the surface below in a few days. The apes loved the adventure, and Neomis tried to let them roam around the station as much as possible. Of course they could get into trouble, and without Mothership directly monitoring the station and servicing for immediate repairs, he had to be cautious. But he couldn’t bear the thought of them in their little habitats for much longer. They were already showing greater signs of intelligence, communicating very differently since the modifications. They hadn’t yet formed the cognitive ability to form words, after all they didn’t have a voice box, but their abilities to grasp more complex phrases and words was astounding. He sighed as he walked behind them, oh how he wished he had more time, that he would see them grow into the intelligent beings that he knew they would. He just wished that he would be the grandfather to their children.
They got to the end of the corridor and the apes were waiting for him, hooting and calling, almost running circles around him. “Settle down, you’ll be able to go in an play.” He activated the artificial gravity for the hanger, waiting a few moments while the air pressure changed as well. This space, because it was so large, was easier to allow the apes to play and run. They would be able to hang off the shuttle craft in the hanger, and they would have access to enough space to really release energy. Not only this, but the gravity was approximately 60% of that on Kieaa, so this would really give them a workout compared to the lesser gravity of the lab and the station in general. Not only this, but it was a very oxygen rich room. The apes now pulled at his hand hanging by his side. He smiled down at them, lifting his hand to stroke Simbia’s head. “Dear, just a moment longer.” He smiled when the indicator light blinked, “see, there is now the right air to breath and more gravity to make you feel normal.” He felt his own face to make sure his breathing apparatus was properly affixed. Since they had taken the apes in a more permanent fashion, he wore it nearly all the time. Really only his own personal lab had the mixture of air that didn’t require the mask.
“Neomis!” he heard a voice at the other end of the corridor. “There you are!” It was Galela. The apes heard her too – and recognized her and began immediately to hoot and call out to her in greeting, but so great was their desire to go into the hanger they did not run to greet her.
“Galela, you’ve come just in time, I’m going to exercise these two and do a bit more work on the shuttle.” He reached down again to stroke Simbia’s head.
“And the others aren’t worthy?” She asked jokingly as she approached him. She got close to him and kissed his head, ignoring the apes pawing at her as she did so. She looked down at them, “you little beasts,” her tone was playful, “you only like me because you know I have fruit.” She reached into a pouch at her side and pulled out fruits from the planet below, small skinned fruit that grew in vines as bunches. They were very sweet, and the apes loved them. She gave each ape a bunch of them. She looked at Neomis, “You’d better let them in there or they’ll tear down the walls.
Neomis nodded with a smile, “Okay my darlings, in you go.” He activated the door, and the air whooshed around their feet, chilled, but not stale. The apes immediately darted into the room, carefully carrying their precious fruit, each going to opposite corners to eat the treat. Neomis looked up Galela. “Are you well my dear?”
Her eyes gleamed in the bright lights of the hanger, now blinking on in succession from the entrance to the back, where the large space doors stood closed. “I’m very well. I’ve monitored the asteroid strikes, little catastrophic damage, well at least for our troops of apes. There will be rain and wind, but we survived with no loss of life.” She stepped into the hanger, expecting Neomis to follow, which he did. “There is no hope though for the elevator. I was working with Ramudu, he had been in contact with Mothership the longest, but as you know, she’s not contacted us in nearly two days.”
Neomis nodded, “He told me though the location beacon was still active.”
She nodded, “It is, and that’s a good thing, it means that whatever is happening on Gugulaania hasn’t destroyed everything. She turned back to him, “but it also means that we’re more alone than ever.” She looked at the shuttle craft in front of them, ignoring the apes running around the room, “Can you fly this thing without Mothership?” She looked back at him.
Neomis looked at the shuttle, just behind her. He saw the apes there, running under the machine, playing near hoists holding it in place. “I do not see that we will have any choice other than to do so. I’ve run the simulations that Mothership provided last week, and I’ve memorized the manual controls. Acting like flying and actually doing it are two entirely different scenarios, but I have to do it. They,” he motioned at the two apes, “Cannot live here.” He lowered his arm. “Nor can we.”
She looked down at his face, her head turned sharply to his eyes. “Don’t Neomis, don’t think about it.”
He smiled at her, he knew she hated to hear him speak thusly. “Galela, it is simply the reality, the truth of our situation. Our priority now must be to reconnect with Mothership, hopefully with Neomin and Normia, and to get these creatures home. They are already changing.” He started to walk towards the shuttle in front of them. Galela followed him. “Did you read the results from their intelligence test?”
“Yes, it was remarkable. Their progress is unprecedented. Now if only we had time to place them in the gene sequencer longer, advance their individual evolution, rather than relying on nature to take it’s course.”
“Even if we could, without the power from Mothership, there is nothing to be done.” He stood just below the front nose cone of the craft, he reached up and touched the cool metal. “Just think, we’ll be the first to fly one of these machines alone in nearly five hundred years.” He looked at her. “How did we arrive at this place Galela, how as a people did we forget everything we ever knew. When did we stop doing, and just became learners?”
She stood next to him, and placed her hand over his, “When you have everything you need, how do you know what you are missing?”
He looked at the two apes, rolling around wrestling with each other, having found a long cloth to drape over themselves like a blanket. “Our future in these creatures will be very different than our past.” He smiled, “I’ve made sure to include the marker for curiosity. I want them as they evolve to long to search, to find, to discover.”
She smiled at him. “Careful dear, don’t give them too much.” She looked at the apes and smiled. “Funny, they seem less beastly to me today.”
He was almost offended, but knew her humor well enough to know she wasn’t entirely serious. “I think Galela, we might actually have become the beasts. Beasts of complacency. We forgot the discovery and wonder of self reliance and became too much children of science and technology.”
She frowned. “Were we?” She shook her head, “I mean are we? This world below us, so full of life, of wonder. I can’t help but wonder if this entire journey of our people all these centuries was our destiny, meant to be perhaps.” She looked around. “We all wonder why Mothership didn’t teach us to care for her. She could have. Perhaps some part of her wanted us to be at this place, so as to force us to figure it out. Maybe even she wanted us to be the parents of this new world, give life and meaning to new children. Our world, where our lives are so old and mundane had stopped living a long time ago; Mothership knew that perhaps it was time we fade away. It could be, in all her great power she knew that the lives we have been living for centuries was empty because we were not truly living any more, we were only existing. It wasn’t until we arrived in this solar system that our scientists started to learn, observe, discover. So then, I believe that on some level our extermination is the beginning of new wonder for the future children of this world. Our time has run its course, time to let it go.”
He sighed, removing his hand from the craft, he reached up to her shoulders and turned him towards him. “Speak not of these things my dear Galela. Our lives, our past, it exists in our future too. These creatures, these apes, Simbia and Membia and all the others are not the result of complacency. They are the result of a great and ancient people, a people who were lost but have found hope not in their own present, not in the offspring of their loins, but found hope in the future of these adopted children.” He pulled her close to him. “We are not lost my dear. We’ve simply come home.”
The two apes had come over to them and had sat at their feet, grooming each other. Neomis felt the hand of Simbia on his leg. He knew that this was meant to be. Galela trembling in his arms. She was crying.